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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

124                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

friendship was decisive: soon the young poet was associating with
the poets of the Pleiade; and at their instigation he read Baudelaire
Rimbaud, Edgar Allen Poe. He was a guest at the Tuesday even-
ing gatherings in Mallarme's salon in the rue de Rome, and here
he met Verlaine. His acquaintance in the French capital with three
young Mexicans induced him to learn Spanish; and when he visited
Spain in 1889 he dreamed himself into the illusion that he had
returned to a land of which long, long ago he had been ruler and
tyrant - an illusion which he was to weave as poetic reality into
his Hymmn., Pilgerfabrten, and Die hdngenden Garten. Spain, accord-
ing to his own account, transformed his very soul: the hard, sharp
lines of the landscapes round about Toledo and Madrid and the
dark forbidding royal palaces filled him with that feeling of regal
loneliness and unapproachable pride which he was to read into
his first published book, and which was to be the mark of his
life-long poetic pose.

In 1889 George went to Berlin to study languages at the Uni-
versity. Here he revelled in the melody and colour of the Spanish
language as he spoke it with his three Mexican friends, whom
he had found here once again; and here, too, his immersion in
Romance studies alienated him more and more from German
literature, which was then in its heyday of naturalism. Indeed,
German seemed so harsh to him that in addition to attempting
French verse he put together a language of his own which shaped
Latin roots into the form and melody of Spanish; and in this lingua
romana he first couched his Zeichnungen in Grau and the first of the
I^egenden which later he transposed into their present German form.1
In this undergraduate's verse as we now read it in Die Fibel the
poet to be is already adumbrated. The Zeichnungen in Grau are
occupied with a boyish resistance to the peril of sensual enjoy-
ment (^tierische Zuckungen'}: the youth must watch lest the divine
goal should vanish and a moment's flame transfigure a clay image.
There are strange glimpses of a temptress - in Gelbe Rose she is
swathed in yellow silk in the yellow refulgence of false daylight
in warm air quivering with perfumes: a Hindoo goddess from the
Ganges, she seems a figure of wax, and soulless save when her
densely shaded eye, weary of rest, suddenly lifts its lid.

In George's first published trilogy of verse - Hymnen, 1890;
Pilgerfahrten, 1891; Algabal, 1892; now in one volume - travel
1 Specimens of the first version are printed in Die Fibel (1901).